Six Nations Preview: Will Irish eyes be smiling on St. Patricks Day?
Ireland have the chance to win the Grand Slam on St. Patrick’s Day against old foes, England.
You could have written that script. And we literally just did. It’s a monumental weekend of Six Nations rugby as the 2018 tournament finishes up for another year.
England v Ireland is the main game, with Scotland against Italy, and France up against Wales in Cardiff.
The Ladbrokes News crew preview all three matches and provide their best tips…
England v Ireland, 2:45pm
This could have been a winner-takes-all clash but for England’s capitulation against Scotland and France.
But can the Red Rose spoil Ireland’s Grand Slam party on Paddy’s Day? It’s an intriguing question with a number of possible twists and turns.
England have now nothing to play for but pride. However, Eddie Jones side are still formidable at Twickenham and won’t be easily moved.
The big question is, can Ireland handle the pressure scenario? Both sides are even-money in the betting, but the boys in green are expected to win.
And we have no reason to doubt Joe Schmidt’s side. They’ve come up trumps in every possible scenario, and have now won 11 wins in a row. The Irish look a team on a mission.
They have strength in depth in nearly every position. And although they haven’t won at English HQ since 2010, as Schmidt wonderfully put it – history doesn’t protect you from the future.
Italy v Scotland, 12:30pm
Scotland are aiming to win three games in a single Six Nations for only the third time. And they have the chance to do so in Rome against the wooden spoon team.
The only problem the Scots will face is their poor away record in this competition. They have lost nine of their last 10 away games in the Six Nations, but that won’t deter Gregor Townsend’s team.
Scotland have been playing with a joie de vivre since Townsend took over. They play an attacking, expansive game – a world apart from the set up of previous ‘up the jumper’ regimes.
Italy, on the other hand, have unravelled a little under Conor O’Shea in this tournament.
They’ve shipped 174 points in just four games and, quite obviously, lost all four. Scotland should easily win here. And they’re at short as 1/12 to bag the victory.
If results go their way the Scots could finish as high as second and that will be signs of huge progression under Townsend. They’ll want to end the tournament in style.
Wales v France, 5:00pm
In a slightly underwhelming finish to the 2018 Six Nations, Wales host France at the Millennium Stadium.
Warren Gatland’s side have, once again, performed admirably against the odds. The Red Dragon were beset by a number of major injury absences but still have the chance to finish second.
They were only beaten by England in very controversial circumstances and got to within one score of Ireland before a last-gasp Irish try.
The Welsh generally always put in a big performance in front of a rapturous home crowd and this game will be no different.
France beat England last week in Paris, and could easily have snatched a win over Ireland at the same venue on the opening weekend.
However, Les Bleus have tended to come apart at the seams when they leave the confines of the Stade de France. They lost to Scotland at Murrayfield and haven’t won in Cardiff since 2010.
Wales have won 15 of their last 18 home games in Six Nations. Their only losses in that period have been to England twice, and Ireland.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing